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Ride Like a Girl Movie Review: A Triumph Over Adversity

“Ride Like a Girl,” the 2019

Australian biographical sports film directed by Rachel Griffiths, tells the inspiring story of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, the country’s most prestigious horse race. The movie’s title comes from Payne’s remark when discussing the sexist attitudes in horse racing that suggested women couldn’t ride horses like men could: “I’ll ride him like a girl!”

The film opens with a tragic incident, the sudden death of Payne’s mother in a car accident.

Payne grew up in a family of horse trainers, and her mother was her biggest supporter.

After her mother’s death, Payne struggled with depression and anxiety, but she used horse riding to cope and gain strength, eventually becoming a champion jockey.

The film shows her journey from struggling female jockey to Melbourne Cup winner, riding the horse, Prince of Penzance.

Ride Like a Girl received generally positive reviews from film critics.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 77% approval rating with an average rating of 6.02/10. The film’s performance was also recognized by the


Academy of Cinema and Television


Awards, winning the Best Lead

Actress award for Teresa Palmer’s portrayal of Michelle’s sister, Stevie, who has Down Syndrome, and Best Supporting

Actor for Sam Neill’s portrayal of the father.

But how accurate is the film in depicting Michelle Payne’s life? The answer is, “Ride Like a Girl” is based on a true story of Michelle Payne’s early life and career.

Payne did experience the tragic loss of her mother, and she began racing horses with the support of her father, Paddy Payne, a successful racehorse trainer. Payne began her professional career as a jockey in 2002, at the age of 18, and worked hard to overcome sexism and prejudice in the sport, becoming the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup in 2015.

Payne’s historic win was a groundbreaking moment for women in sports, demonstrating that female jockeys could compete and win in the traditionally male-dominated sport of horse racing. Payne has since become a motivational speaker, using her story as an example of what can be achieved with hard work, perseverance, and determination.

The film’s portrayal of Payne’s life and achievements is inspiring and eye-opening, highlighting the struggles and successes of a remarkable woman who overcame adversity to become a trailblazer in her field. The film’s depiction of Payne’s family tragedy and the importance of love, support, and family in overcoming adversity is also a powerful message that resonates with audiences.

In conclusion, “Ride Like a Girl” is much more than a biopic depicting the life of Michelle Payne. It’s an inspiring story of courage, resilience, and hope that motivates viewers to pursue their dreams despite the challenges they may face.

The film’s portrayal of Payne’s triumphs and adversities is a reminder that with hard work and determination, anything is possible. It’s a story that no one who watches it will forget anytime soon.

The inspirational story of Michelle Payne’s life as a jockey, culminating in her historic win at the 2015 Melbourne Cup, has captured the hearts of many around the world. This triumph provided rich pickings for a director on the lookout for fresh material, hence why Rachel Griffiths chose to make her debut as a director with “Ride Like a Girl”.

Griffiths reportedly became interested in Michelle Payne’s story after seeing her rousing victory speech, that ended with her famous quote, “It’s such a chauvinistic sport, I know some of the owners were keen to kick me off.

And obviously, they can’t now”.

When Michelle Payne made this comment, she was dedicating her victory to all women who strive to break through barriers in their chosen field, and for Griffiths, it was a fairy tale come true.

As a debut director, Griffiths was eager to remain faithful to the facts surrounding Michelle Payne’s life and career. She spent significant time and effort researching her subject, ensuring that the film’s portrayal of Payne’s struggles and triumphs was accurate in every detail.

The filmmakers even sold the rights to Payne’s life story to the production company, ensuring that they could stay true to the facts without fear of legal action. Griffiths’ dedication to accuracy was evident in the film’s casting.

Michelle Payne was portrayed by Teresa Palmer, who gave an excellent performance, capturing Payne’s spirit and determination. Stevie Payne, Michelle’s brother, who has Down Syndrome and played himself in the film, was central to the story, highlighting the importance of family support in overcoming adversity.

Stevie’s performance was especially touching, providing much of the film’s emotional impact. The supporting cast also gave strong performances, with Sam Neill standing out as Payne’s father, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Payne, who taught Michelle to ride and supported her throughout her career.

Damien Oliver, a Melbourne Cup-winning jockey, was portrayed by actor Sullivan Stapleton, drawing attention to Oliver’s history of sports misconduct, including drug use and race-fixing. The film was shot on location in various parts of Melbourne and Victoria, including Ballarat, Sunbury, Flemington, Macedon Ranges, Caulfield, Jan Juc, Moonee Valley, Werribee, Balnarring, and Hanging Rock.

The film’s locations brought the Victorian countryside to life, providing a stunning backdrop for the dramatic horse racing scenes.

Filming was not without its challenges, as it required careful coordination with horses and actors, who had to work together to create realistic race scenes.

The challenge was particularly acute for Stevie Payne, as he had to learn to race against other jockeys, without putting himself or the other actors in danger. However, with the help of experienced trainers and careful planning, the team was able to safely film the exciting race scenes, providing a sense of realism and excitement to the film.

In conclusion, “Ride Like a Girl” is a biographical sports film that tells the story of Michelle Payne’s journey to becoming the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. The film is grounded in fact, with careful attention paid to accuracy and authenticity.

Rachel Griffiths’ direction brings out powerful performances from all the cast, including Stevie Payne, who played himself in the film. The film’s stunning locations also help to bring the story to life, providing a beautiful backdrop for the exciting horse racing scenes.

All in all, “Ride Like a Girl” is a moving, inspiring, and triumphant film that celebrates the power of determination, hard work, and family support needed to reach one’s dreams. While Teresa Palmer’s portrayal of Michelle Payne in “Ride Like a Girl” resonated with audiences around the world, the actress faced a terrifying moment during the film’s shooting that caused her significant distress.

During the filming of a raucous scene at the Flemington Racecourse, Palmer encountered difficulty with her horse.

According to an interview with

ABC News, during the scene, “the horse’s ears went back and it just started going [into] full-blown panic.

I thought I was going to get killed, basically”. Despite her fear, Palmer managed to keep her cool and rode the horse back to the holding area, where the horse was sedated.

Following the incident, the actress expressed newfound respect for the extraordinary athletes that ride horses professionally. Palmer’s gripping experience also underscores the essential role that horses play in the film’s narrative.

As the film shows, horses are intelligent and sensitive animals that require a lot of care and attention. It’s a point that Michelle Payne emphasizes in the movie, as she finds comfort and solace in looking after her horses and building strong relationships with them.

One of the central horses featured in the film was a real-life ex-racehorse, Prince of Penzance. The horse, which won the 2015 Melbourne Cup in real life, was bought by a New Zealand syndicate for just $50,000.

Trained by Darren Weir, the horse went on to become one of the most successful horses in

Australian racing history, winning a number of big races.

In the film, Prince of Penzance was portrayed by several different horses, all of them ex-racehorses.

The filmmakers coordinated with well-known jockey and trainer, Chris Symons, to ensure that the horses were well-trained and able to handle the demands of the filming. With Symons’ help, the horses were able to perform realistic gallops and jump sequences that matched the intensity and adrenaline of professional horse racing.

One of the most memorable scenes in the film is the Melbourne Cup race itself, in which Michelle Payne famously says, “I can’t believe we’ve done it!” following her historic win. The scene was shot over several days, with actors, horses, and racing commentators all working to create an immersive and authentic experience.

One of the biggest challenges of the filming was capturing the frenetic energy and excitement of a real race, which requires careful coordination and attention to detail. Through the film’s portrayal of the horses, the filmmakers sought to emphasize the importance of treating these animals with care and respect.

These animals play an integral role in Michelle Payne’s life, providing her with much-needed solace and support during difficult times. The film honors this relationship, highlighting the bond that exists between a successful jockey and her horse.

In conclusion, “Ride Like a Girl” is a unique film that masterfully blends sports drama and biographical storytelling. The film’s portrayal of horses, especially the central horse Prince of Penzance, adds to the film’s sense of authenticity and depth.

Teresa Palmer’s performance and her terrifying experience with the horse during the Flemington incident are further testaments to the power of the story. The film stands as a touching tribute to Michelle Payne’s achievements, while also celebrating the importance of family, hard work, and respect for both animals and people.

Sam Neill, a veteran actor who has appeared in popular films and TV shows such as “Jurassic Park” and “Peaky Blinders,” plays the role of Paddy Payne, Michelle’s father, in “Ride Like a Girl.” Neill brings his formidable acting skills and his remarkable resemblance to the real-life Paddy Payne to the role, delivering a performance that captures the spirit of Payne’s father. In preparing for the role, Neill drew inspiration from Paddy Payne’s wisdom, work ethic, and resilience.

According to an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, “Pa” Payne, as he’s known in the racing community, is famous for defying the odds and achieving success despite long odds. Neill channeled this spirit and incorporated it into his portrayal, bringing the character of Paddy to life in an authentic and memorable way.

The film’s producers also arranged for Neill and the other actors to meet with the Payne family, providing an opportunity for them to get to know their real-life counterparts. This dedication to honoring the real-life figures who inspired the film adds a level of authenticity to the performances, which can be seen in Neill’s impeccable portrayal.

“Ride Like a Girl” is currently available to Netflix subscribers; however, geographical restrictions apply. This means that the availability of the film on Netflix varies depending on the country.

With the rise of on-demand streaming services, Netflix’s presence has become a valuable tool for distributing films that otherwise wouldn’t reach a global audience. Notwithstanding the availability restrictions, “Ride Like a Girl” is a family-friendly film that’s suitable for children with parental guidance.

The movie deals with universal themes such as perseverance, overcoming obstacles, and the importance of family in a way that can be appreciated by people of all ages. While some of the racing scenes are intense, there’s no explicit violence or adult content that would warrant a specific age restriction limit.

In conclusion, Sam Neill’s portrayal of Paddy Payne, Michelle Payne’s father, is central to the film’s success and authenticity, serving as an inspiration to audiences. The film’s availability on Netflix makes it easier for people to access the inspiring story of Michelle Payne, even if they live in countries where it was not initially released.

The family-friendly nature of the film and its lack of specific age restrictions makes it accessible to people of all ages, highlighting universal themes and providing valuable life lessons. Michelle and Stevie Payne, the real-life sisters who inspired the film “Ride Like a Girl,” have given a heartwarming interview in which they shared personal insights into their journey.

Speaking to

ABC News, the sisters talked about their upbringing, their passions, and what inspired them to pursue horse racing. Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, talked about the challenges she faced in a male-dominated industry and how she was able to overcome sexism and prejudice.

She emphasized the importance of her family’s support and her own determination, stating, “I never ever gave up; I knew I could do it”. Stevie, meanwhile, discussed her role in the film, where she played herself, highlighting the importance of family support in overcoming adversity.

Stevie has Down Syndrome, and her story is integral to Michelle’s life. Through her portrayal in the film, Stevie became an inspiration to many, highlighting the challenges and successes of those with disabilities.

The sisters also talked about the importance of their family in their journey to success. Their father, a successful horse trainer, taught them to ride horses from a young age, while their mother was their biggest supporter and motivator.

Their mother tragically passed away in a car accident, but her memory remains a driving force in the sisters’ lives, inspiring them to continue her legacy of hard work and determination. Michelle and Stevie both serve as inspirations to many, using their triumphs over adversity to motivate others to pursue their dreams.

For Michelle, it’s about breaking barriers and paving the way for other female jockeys, while for Stevie, it’s about showing the world that those with disabilities can achieve great things. Their story, as told in “Ride Like a Girl,” resonates with audiences around the world, highlighting the power of family, determination, and hard work.

The sisters’ interview provides a personal perspective on the story, adding depth and humanity to the film’s portrayal. Ultimately, the message of the film is one of triumph over adversity, offering hope and inspiration to those looking to follow in Michelle and Stevie Payne’s footsteps.

“Ride Like a Girl” tells the inspiring true story of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. The film accurately depicts Michelle’s early life, career, and the tragedy that inspired her to overcome adversity and achieve greatness.

The movie pays homage to Michelle’s family, especially her father, to Stevie her sister, and their contribution to her success as a jockey. The powerful performance of Sam Neil, the breathtaking horse-riding scenes, and the story’s universal themes of perseverance, hard work, and family make “Ride Like a Girl” a touching tribute to the power of determination and a must-watch for audiences.



Q: Is the story of “Ride Like a Girl” based on a true story?


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